TheFappening – the leak heard around the world. It was 2014 when hundreds upon hundreds of iCloud photos belonging to some of your favorite celebrities were leaked online for anyone to see. But this wasn’t an ordinary theft; there was something much darker and more sinister at play here.
It all started when intimate photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, Victoria Justice, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande, and many other big names were released onto the web, without their consent. Once these celebrities saw what had happened they took a stand within moments of the leak being made public.
Jennifer Lawrence’s spokesman said in a statement “This is a flagrant violation of privacy… The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.” These strong words gave courage to many other stars that had seen their private images shared online – some even taking to social media and launching lawsuits against those posting their photos.
Many of us remember swapping gossip with our friends after hearing about TheFappening. But how or why did it happen in first place? After carefully instructing authorities as well as Microsoft Corp.’s Digital Crimes Unit, it was determined that attackers used sophisticated techniques akin to an Advanced Persistent Threat attack – likely from an organized crime group based in Eastern Europe which obtained user credentials either through phishing or third-party material breaches and then employed them to gain access to account correspondences and image backups across several devices for each celebrity victim.
When we look back on TheFappening – almost seven years later – we now know that it’s part of a bigger trend towards cyberwarfare. We also understand that technology comes with its risks if not kept secure but also its potential for good when used ethically; using data securely can help protect us from becoming victims ourselves or otherwise being taken advantage of online next time such a huge scandal erupts like it did after TheFappening.